Paul's Ponderings

Thoughts about following Jesus

Tag: Jesus (page 1 of 18)

The Most Amazing Truth

Here is the most amazing truth that I know: God loves you!

Take moment and reflect on the reality that the Creator of the universe desires to have a relationship with you.

Not only does God love you, but He is willing to do whatever it takes to be in relationship with you. We can be confident of this fact because of the life and death of Jesus.

I know for some people the truth of God’s love seems too good to be true. They don’t “feel” God’s love in their lives. Instead their lives are full of hassles and problems. In their minds, the presence of difficulties are evidence that God’s doesn’t exist.

I wish I could help them see that this is not true!

God loves us, and His love is all around us.

Now you may wonder how I can write about God’s love as if it were right out there within our reach.

That is because it is.

Rebecca St. James once wrote, “I really believe so many times God ‘calls out’ to us through everyday things and through His creation, and yet we don’t hear because we’re too busy or distracted.”

God’s love is seen in many different ways, but too often we miss it.

We miss it because we are either looking for something that God’s love isn’t, like a perpetual warm fuzzy, or the realities of everyday life have distracted us from what God is doing in our lives.

Remember: Just because you don’t “feel” loved by God doesn’t mean that God’s love for you isn’t real.

I know God’s love exists and I know that He loves me.

The evidence of God’s love for me is found in the love of my family and friends.

I have found proof of God’s love for me through times of prayer, worship, and meditation.

God’s love has been revealed to me in the peace and confidence that I have in my life.

I can see God’s love everyday as I walk among His creation and marvel at what He has done.

All of this pales in the light of the great revelation of God’s love: Jesus.

Remember the apostle Paul’s words from the book of Romans:

When were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, no one is likely to die for a good person, though someone might be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. (Romans 5:6-8; NLT)

You know why Jesus’ death is the great demonstration of God’s love?

  • God is under no obligation to save us. There is no force outside of God that dictates that He has to save human beings. To save His creation is God’s choice. He saves us because of His character.  It is God’s mercy, grace, and love that compels Him to save us rather than condemn us.
  • God doesn’t need us. Humans do not fill some need God has for companionship. God, being three in one, has all the companionship that He needs. It is His faithfulness to creation and His desire for us to experience true life  that moves God save us. His love is totally unconditional. His love is not based on who we are or want we have done for Him, but based on His desire for people to experience what is best.
  • God experienced pain.  This flows from the previous two. Saving us was not something God had to do, but it is something He chose to do. That choice involved a great cost. Our salvation involved real pain.  Pain that exceeded the physical pain of crucifixion. It appears that as Jesus took on our sins, he was separated from God. We will never fully understand the love it took for Jesus to go to the cross.

Does God love you?

He loves you more than you can imagine.

It is experienced everyday we walk with God. It is seen in creation, in our families and friends, and in circumstances as we surrender to God’s will.

But that is the key.

If you are missing out on God’s love it is time to surrender your life to Him.

When you love someone you have the hope that they will respond to your love.

Rejected love is always painful.

The same is true for God.

God loves you, but for you to fully experience that love you need to surrender to Him.

We don’t experience all the love another person has for us until we enter into a relationship with him. This also applies to God. To fully experience the love of God we have to enter into a relationship with Him. We do that by surrendering our lives to Him.

I realize that this is hard to do. We don’t want to give up control of our lives or be committed to the will of another person, but that is what is required of all lasting relationships. Love will always move us to care more and more for the other person, which will cause us to sacrifice on their behalf.

The most amazing truth in the universe is that the Creator of the universe loves you.

When we grasp that reality, how can we not seek to love Him back?

God loves us.

His love is all around us, calling us to accept Him as our Father and Lord.

You can choose to see God’s love or you can choose to ignore it.

You have the choice to either reject or accept His love.

The choice is yours.

I urge you to accept this amazing truth and make the choice to love.

How have you experienced God’s love? Leave a comment and let me know.

 

Life is Important

Life is infused with importance.

We know that life is important because of the emotions that we experience as we move through life.

Life is important so we are excited on Christmas morning as gifts are opened. Life is important so we cheer as our team wins the championship in the final seconds. Life is important so we attend the wedding of a close friend and smile when the groom kisses the bride. Life is important so we offer congratulations to the recent college graduate.

The emotions of pride, excitement, hope, compassion, and love remind us that life isn’t mundane and ordinary. Life is of great importance.

It is crucial that we understand why our lives are important.

I think a mistake we often make is to think that the importance of life is found in these wonderful moments.

If life becomes about the gifts, the game, the wedding, and the graduation then live is just a series of events and we loose the greater narrative of what life is supposed to be about.

If we make life about the moments, then sooner or later our life will lose its importance. The moments can’t last and sooner or later they will begin to disappoint us. The gifts wear out, championships fade, marriages end, and degrees loose their value.

Yet, even in this reality we discover that life is important. The negative emotions of life remind us that each experience of life is important. We were meant to experience excitement, joy, pride, success, and love. It is tragic when those things are taken from us.

If life doesn’t draw its value from the moments and experiences of life, where does life gain its importance?

27 So God created human beings in his own image.
In the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

28 Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”  (Genesis 1:27-28; NLT)

The importance of life comes from the reality that we are created in the image of God.

Being the image of bearers of God means more than having free will, creativity, or a soul. It means that we are to demonstrate God’s character in this world.

Life is important because we have a purpose. There is a larger meaning to our lives, and the more we are able to embrace this purpose the fuller and richer our lives become.

I wish this was the entire explanation behind the importance of life. It is not. There is an ugly side of life. A side that robs our lives of purpose and meaning.

That ugly side is sin.

Sin is nothingless than rebellion against God.

We were created to reflect God’s grace and love into the world, but sin corrupts that image. Rather than seeking to reflect God’s image we seek to promote ourselves. That is the truth we learn from Adam and Eve’s choice to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The temptation the Serpent throws at Adam and Eve is that they can be like God.

In other words, instead of looking to God and reflecting His holy character, we decide life is about us. It is about our ability to shine our character, a character  that has become corrupted when disconnected from the life and love of God.

The reason life feels mundane and meaningless is because we have made life about ourselves, and we simply lack what it takes to create purpose for life.

This is why the Gospel is crucial for life:

1 Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand.2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.4 And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.  (Colossians 3:1-4; NLT)

In Christ Jesus we are given a new life.

No longer do we need to try to discover meaning in the moments of life. Now we can have life because the life of Jesus infuses our life with purpose.

For this to happen we need to stay connected with to Jesus (John 15:1-5). According the apostle Paul we are able to do that as we set our minds on Jesus and his character. (To think about the things of heaven doesn’t mean to imagine what heaven is like, but to think about the values of heaven: the values the made up the life of Jesus.)

Life has meaning. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you have done, you will experience moments of joy, pleasure, and purpose. Sin cannot erase completely the importance God infused into life.

For us to experience life at its fullest and to be good stewards of the life we have been given requires being connected to Jesus. As we follow Jesus we will discover that life will continue to increase in value, because we will be able to see life the way God originally created it.

Follow Jesus and enjoy the life God has for you to live.

Questions to Answer

questions-to-answerJuly 8, 2009

The last two days I have been haunted by two questions Jesus asked. They have been playing themselves over and over again in my mind as I have considered how I would answer them.

The first question is the question the Lord asked Peter after the resurrection.

You know the story.

Peter denied knowing Jesus three times on the eve of the crucifixion. After the resurrection Jesus takes Peter aside in order to restore Peter. The process of restoration consisted of the same question asked three times: “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” (John 21:15; ESV).

Do I love Jesus more than…?

It is easy to say that we do, but often our actions betray the truth. We love our families more than Jesus, we love recognition more than Jesus, we love our jobs more than Jesus, we love alcohol more than Jesus, or we love our hobbies more than Jesus.

I won’t speak for you, but I know that I often put Jesus in the back seat, even when it comes to ministry.

Since we relegate Jesus to the back corners of our lives means this is a very important question for us to ponder. Every day we need to tell ourselves, through prayer and commitment, that we love Jesus more than anything else.

It is essential that we take the time to hear Jesus’ question and then take the time to answer it. We need to tell Jesus we love Him, and then show that love in the way we live our lives.

The second question is the question that Jesus asked of blind Bartimaeus.

Jesus is passed through Jericho and a blind beggar heard that Jesus was walking past the spot he was begging. Blind Bartimaeus yells to get Jesus’ attention: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:47; ESV). Over and over again Bartimaeus yelled, even though all the people around him told him to be quiet. Finally Jesus called for the blind beggar to come. When Bartimaeus got to him, Jesus asked the beggar, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51; ESV)

What do I want Jesus to do for me?

I think we expect so little from Jesus. We come to Jesus and ask that He will forgive our sins, that He will bless us with good health, or that He will take care of our families.

Don’t miss understand me, those things are good things, and in some ways they are essential things, but I think these requests are like Bartimaeus answering, “Jesus, I want you to provide an endless amount of money so I don’t have to beg anymore.”

Sure it would be a wonderful thing for Bartimaeus to quit begging, but it misses the point. He gets it right when he says, “I want to see.”

What do I want from Jesus? I want life.

I want to be free from fear and from sin. I want to obey God and follow Jesus with all my heart. I want to make a difference in this world for the Kingdom. I don’t want to settle for a life of my own creating, I want to live the life God created me to live.

The only way I know that can happen is to ask Jesus to give it to me.

There are certain questions that we need to take time to consider and answer, because our answers will determine the direction of our lives. That is especially true when Jesus asks the questions.

What is Jesus asking you?

Covenants are Important

CovenantsOne important reality that we need to remember when we read the Bible is that we live in a different culture than the culture it was originally written in. Bible translators do their best to produce a translation that captures the original intent while making it understandable to us, but we still need to do the work of understanding the original context of Scripture. This will help us grasp the full message God has for us in His Word.

An important concept that we need to understand is the concept of covenant. The theme of covenant runs through the entire Bible. Since we live in a society is based on contracts rather than covenants it can be difficult to understand exactly what a covenant is.

The man who taught me about the importance of covenants, Chuck McCoy (one of my professors in college), wrote this; “In the ancient Middle East and Biblical world, a ‘covenant’ was a solemn, blood-sealed agreement between parties that both establishes and regulates a relationship between them and is made binding by an oath.”

There are three important implications of covenants that I want to identify:

  1. Covenants demonstrate that the God of the Bible (YHWH) is different from the gods of the pagans. People imagined the pagan gods to be fickle, cruel, mean, and unreliable. They could not be trusted, for they were really nothing more than super humans using people as pawns in their sadistic games. YHWH, the covenant making God of the Bible, is different. He could be  trusted and He had a desire for people to succeed and become the people He created them to be. Think about that reality for a moment. When we have a covenant relationship with God He has a great desire for us to up hold our end of the covenant! We don’t have to be fearful that God is looking for a reason to punish us, rather, we can go boldly to our Father in Heaven and ask for the wisdom, the strength, and the support we need to live the life He created us to live. Ultimately, knowing that we are in a covenant relationship with God means we can trust God to help us along the way.
  2. Covenants provide the  expectations God has for people. A crucial element of  covenants are the terms or the expectations of the covenant. In essence the 10 Commandments are the basic terms of the covenant God established with Israel. The terms of the New Covenant, established by Jesus, are written on our hearts by the Holy Spirit, but are summed up in the commands to love God and love people. These expectations help us understand what it means to be faithful. In a culture that equates faith with belief we need the parameters of faithfulness defined for us. I don’t remain faithful to God because I maintain my belief that He exists and that Jesus died for the sins of the world. My faithfulness to God is demonstrated by keeping the terms of the covenant He made with His people. Just as Jesus remained faithful to God through obedience to His will, we remain faithful to God through our obedience.
  3. Covenants allow us to be confident in our relationship with God.  I am confident in my relationship to my wife because of the commitment we made to each other. The same is true with our covenant relationship with God. He has made a commitment to us, and demonstrated that commitment through the death and resurrection of Jesus. The covenant we have with God declares that our redemption, our place in His kingdom, is not the result of our behavior, but the result of His grace. God is the one that took the initiative to save us, He has promised to provide for our needs, and He has declared that He will forgive our sins. Our salvation is secure because of the covenant God established with us.

Covenants are not incidental to our theology, they are the very foundation of Christian theology. We worship a covenant making God, and those covenants give us confidence and security.

Yes, we have a personal relationship with God, but that personal relationship is based on covenant. I think the more we understand about covenants, especially the New Covenant God established through the death and resurrection of Jesus, the more confident and hopeful we will be in our relationship with Him.

Don’t Be Distracted by Moldy Beard

AllegianceThe Old Testament is filled with interesting little stories. We often miss these stories because, as Christians, we tend to focus on the New Testament. When we do this we miss out on wealth of knowledge that the Old Testament contains.

One of the stories that I think is worth discussing is found in Joshua 9. This is the account of when Israel made a treaty, otherwise known as a covenant, with the Canannite tribe of Gibeon.

The Gibeonites heard about the victories over Jericho and Ai that God had given Israel. They probably heard about the parting of the Jordan River and the other miracles God had performed on behalf of Israel. From this Gibeon concluded that they could not resist Israel.

The Gibeonites did not want to engage the Israelites in battle. Instead they devised a plan to trick Israel. Men from the town dressed up as ambassadors. To complete the look they even outfitted these ambassadors with moldy bread and torn wine skins to make it seem like they had traveled a great distance. From their actions it appears that Gibeon knew that God allowed Israel to enter into alliances with distant countries, but not with the people who lived in Canaan. The hope of the Gibeonites was to deceive Israel and enter into an alliance with God’s people.

Joshua and the leaders of Israel listened to the story of the ambassadors, saw their moldy beard and torn wine skins, and entered into a treaty with the Gibeonites. They did this without consulting God. When the ruse was discovered the leaders of Israel would not let Israel attack, because they had entered into the treaty by the name of God.

Israel made two mistakes in this situation.

  1. The Israelites allowed the appearance of things to distract them from reality. They took things at face value and did not dig deeper into what the truth was.
  2. The Israelites did not seek God’s guidance. They completely trusted what the saw, and did not think it was necessary to ask God for His discernment, because it seemed like the logical thing to do.

I think this account provides us with a cautionary tale. As Christians living in the United States we are tempted to make alliances with people and political parties. It seems like the logical thing to do because they seem to be fighting for what we hold dear and to be aligned with many of our core beliefs. Yet, one wonders if these allegiances actually hinder our mission as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Democratic Party’s message of equality and fairness seems to be such a great message. While there are features of the Democratic platform a Christian could not support, namely abortion, it is also true that we long to see people rescued from poverty and for people to be treated equally. The promises made by the Democratic Party, superficially, seem to be the very goals that God desires to bring into this world. A deeper and more discerning look at how the Democrats plan to bring about this change reveals the moldy bread of the promises. More often than not there are unintended consequences to their actions. These unintended consequences end up making things worse.

Other Christians have been distracted by conservative promises of pro-life and pro-marriage platforms. There is nothing more precious in this world than human life, and we need to fight for it, but we should have learned by now politics is a poor vehicle to make that happen. The Republican party, despite of what they may say, is more interested in being in power than in protecting life. If they can make a promise to secure your vote then they will do it. The moldy bread the Republicans offer is seen in their failure to live up to their many conservative campaign promises.

When we get deceived by the moldy bread of a political party we will give them our allegiance and give time and money to get the “right” people elected and miss out on really touching the lives of other people. The greatest thing that we as Christians can do to make a difference in this world is live a life of faith and love. This is how we make ourselves lights in a dark world and show people that there is a better way to live.

God has given us a great opportunity in this country to be able to participate in the political process. We need to stay informed about what is happening and find opportunities to participate in the process. This is how we can be good stewards of our United States citizenship.

I also think that it is dangerous to give our allegiance to a party or a candidate. The greatest hope this country has is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the Gospel is found the power to change the hearts of people. Our allegiance must be to Jesus before anything else. Where does your allegiance lie?

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